The House refugee committee on Tuesday discussed the possibility of ‘crediting’ Greek Cypriot refugees with the building coefficients assigned to their properties in the north.
It would allow Greek Cypriot refugees to transfer the building coefficient (the maximum number of square metres one is allowed to build on a property) from their property in the north to their property in the south.
Once that is done, the idea is that refugees would be able to either use that building coefficient to expand their own properties in the south (if they haven’t already exhausted the coefficient), or to ‘sell’ the coefficient to someone else who wishes to expand their property but currently cannot.
The matter was tabled for discussion at the committee by MPs from Disy, Diko and Edek.
They argue that transferring building ratios from properties in the north to the south will provide financial relief to many refugees.
Another benefit, it is claimed, is that it will discourage Greek Cypriot refugees from engaging with the property commission in the north, which offers restitution for properties in return for relinquishing all legal claims on them.
But committee chair Skevi Koukouma (Akel) said the proposal was practically unworkable.
“They are selling air to the refugees,” she remarked, dismissing the whole idea as an electioneering gimmick.
The same proposal has been doing the rounds for years, added Koukouma.
The Akel deputy recalled how a former member of the current administration – interior minister Socratis Hasikos – shot down the idea during a meeting chaired by the president.
At that meeting, Hasikos said that transferring building ratios in this way would cause more problems than it would solve.
Officials from the town planning department and the land registry agreed with this assessment, Koukouma pointed out.
There are more practical ways of helping refugees, such as expanding cheap housing projects, she added.
For her part, MP Mariella Aristidou of the ruling Disy party supported the proposal, saying it envisages transferring a certain percentage of the building ratio, not all of it.
“The matter is not closed, we shall revisit it,” she said.
The proposal for transferring building coefficients for refugees dates back to at least 2007 when it was floated by then-incumbent president Tassos Papadopoulos as part of his plank for the 2008 elections.